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A personal letter to a colleague …

May 19, 2021

In our most recent board meeting, during the annual board self-evaluation, a board member Ana Petero mentioned a personal letter I had written her more than a month earlier. I interpreted her remarks to mean the letter was not helpful to her, that my use of the word “clique” had a negative effect. I told her I hoped she made the letter public so others could could judge for themselves.

The other day (May 15th, 2021) in an email she gave me permission to make it public. Here is a transcript (it was handwritten). (Here is a link to the original handwritten version, with highlighting and circles added by the recipient.)

–beginning of transcript–

“3/26/21 Fairfield

“Ana, I felt bad when we left last night after the meeting. It felt like you were angry at me for being angry at you. I didn’t mean for it to be like that. I apologize for not communicating well. Let me try a different way.

“I wanted to talk to you because it sounded like you were not accepting directions given by the board president. That’s a problem, and it will end worse for you than for him.

“I remember I went through some painful times learning this myself, when I was brand new and David Isom was the board president. (Don’t ask about the time I had to apologize to Martha for saying, “Fuck this” right after a meeting!) Gayla would affirm – there were several meetings when I came home upset and in turmoil after feeling like I had not been treated right in a meeting or in an email. It’s not what I was expecting.

“It felt like there was a little clique that was marginalizing Joan and myself, trying to shut us up. I’ve since learned that it’s very much like a clique, but a focused, purpose-driven clique working darned hard to bring about good conditions for the students. And Kris is a key part of that.

“We’re sensitive to anyone who does not accept that. I learned it pretty quickly (though painfully). (The CSBA Masters in Governance trainings were part of that. I have a few more to finish – I can’t wait until they start up again in person. I’d love to go together.) I’m not sure Joan really learned that. (You should ask her.) The clique won’t respect you until they feel you respect them, and that takes time to accept the way they do things until you get to know them, and they get to know you. Then you can start to influence them, slowly. That’s the advice I got from Dave Gaut before I got elected, to just watch and follow for at least six months (I’d say a year) before taking a strong position on things. It takes that long for the other members to learn what you’re about and learn to trust you. There’s a lot of reciprocation, subtle but important. I bet all political offices (at least multi-member boards, councils or commissions) are like that. (You could ask Monica Brown about that.)

“The full-frontal approach doesn’t work for a new member, and just causes lots of pain all around (but more for you than for them). I don’t want you to experience more pain that you have to. We need you as a member of the team – you obviously have loads to contribute – but we need to learn to trust you first.

“I hope you’ll consider talking to Jonathan, making sure he’s comfortable with the way you use our time in public. We chose him to run our meetings and represent us, and as long as he has the support of the majority of the board, he has an awful lot of discretion on what to permit.

“Please don’t get angry or discouraged. Hopefully you can put your emotion to good use, by driving you to stay up to date, gathering information and asking questions privately, without unnecessary public confrontation. Again, I went through a lot of this. It takes time to earn respect from a group, and it takes time to gain respect for a group. (I started out with very little respect for the group.)

“I’m hoping you’ll find a way through this. Feel free to call me.


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